Productivity Commission releases draft report examining planning in Australia

A DRAFT report released by the Productivity Commission last month has identified vast differences in the ways all levels of government plan and zone land-uses and assess development proposals.

As part of a COAG agreement that all governments would aim to adopt a common framework for benchmarking, measuring and reporting the regulatory burden on business, the Australian Government requested that the Productivity Commission undertake a benchmarking study into Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments.

In its report, the Commission examines the regulatory frameworks of each jurisdiction, the processes for supply of land, the bases for assessing developer contributions, compliance costs for business, and competition issues arising from planning decision-making.

"By its very nature, the task of planning and zoning land to enable those uses which will optimise the welfare of communities and the nation is complicated. However, this complexity can be managed better and deliver better outcomes," Commissioner Louise Sylvan said.

The report identifies numerous leading practices which can contribute to smoother processes and improved outcomes, such as:

  • Putting the focus of effort into the strategic planning level, including a strong engagement of the community and resolving conflicting objectives at this level of city planning;
  • Ensuring that local plans are more quickly brought up to date with the strategic city plans;
  • Applying consistent and efficient criteria to determine the level of contributions of developers to infrastructure costs;
  • Ensuring that certain practices, such as considering a new entrant's effects on existing businesses, are being eliminated as an appropriate planning consideration;
  • Creating disincentives for appealing against developments by those seeking to delay or prevent potential competitors entering;
  • Completing structure planning of rezoned greenfield/brownfield areas before development commences; and
  • Implementing electronic development assessments and impact-based assessment tracks.

The report concludes there are opportunities for all jurisdictions to improve the way they conduct planning, zoning and development assessment in order to reduce burdens on business, costs to the community, increase competition and improve the liveability of cities.

The Commission is seeking feedback on the draft report before finalising its report at the end of April. More information is available from the Productivity Commission website at <>.

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